Last minute Thanksgiving shoppers at an Edgewood Food Lion Wednesday were surprised to see a group of teenagers running up to them at the checkout and offering to pay for a portion of their bill on the holiday eve.
Dorothy Carneal, 78, of Edgewood, who received one of the $25 gift cards passed out by the teens, wiped tears from her eyes after giving each one of the students a hug.
"I was just so shocked," said Carneal, who was doing some last minute shopping. "I just couldn't believe it, for someone to give you something and not want anything in return."
Carneal, a seven-year Edgewood resident, said she has never seen this kind of charitable giving before.
Five Edgewood High School seniors and two teachers greeted shoppers with candy as they entered the market. The group presented random shoppers with $2,169 in Food Lion gift cards to help alleviate some of the burden of the expensive holiday season.
The teens are members of a volunteer organization at the high school called Student Outreach. In the past three years, the group has raised $6,000 to build shelters for Afghan refugees, $500 for victims for Superstorm Sandy and now gifted local residents will funds toward their holiday grocery bills.
"We had already given internationally and nationally, but not locally," said Laura Childs, an English teacher at Edgewood and advisor to the club. "We want to give back to a community that supports our school."
The club started after Childs was introduced to the idea of service learning for kids, while attending a conference in California three years ago. There she met Khaled Hosseini, whose foundation provides educators with standard-based curricula that empowers students to raise funds to build shelters for refugee camps.
"My students were already reading Khaled Hossini's novel 'The Kite Runner' in class," Childs said. "I thought the fundraiser would be a good supplement to what they were already learning in the classroom."
Student Outreach had $1,669 in left over funds from it's fundraising efforts from the past two years and decided to give it away to local residents, Childs explained. She reached out to William Ewing, manager of the Edgewood Food Lion, who agreed to the gifting opportunity and donated another $400 toward the gift cards.
Student Outreach member Melissa Harvey, 17, who helped many Food Lion shoppers out to their car in the rain, said she likes to see people smile and be happy.
"I think it's important to see how volunteering impacts other people," Harvey said. "The shoppers seem very touched and startled."
Harvey said she comes from a family that places emphasis on volunteering and often helps out at church.
"We're out here for the community," Harvey said. "It is important for the school to help the community because it helped us."
Another student, Jake Weinstein, 17, said while he does not get to do community service as much as he would like because of extracurriculars, it was important for him to give back to his community.
"The Thanksgiving holiday is about getting together as a family," Weinstein said. "The Edgewood community is like our family and everyone can use some help."
Christine Phillips, 17, gave out candy to shoppers and their children as they entered into the store, wishing them a happy holiday. Meaghan Estevez, 17, and Nina Heinlein, 17, gave out the gift cards along with Childs and her husband, Ted, also a teacher at Edgewood High School.